Oh, Baby.

[MASSIVE spoilers for Rosemary’s Baby. I’m not sure it would matter — I think even if you know what is going to happen it would still scare your socks off — but in any case you have been warned.]

Over Thanksgiving, the premium channels have open viewing, so that you can watch Game of Thrones and get so enraptured you subscribe to HBO. I saw American Gods on Starz, and as wonderful as it is I was not moved to get a premium subscription. (I bought it on iTunes, instead.)

During the promotion I DVR programs and movies I am interested in. The shows don’t go away when the promotion does. For the longest time I had Frozen and The Force Awakens DVRed – until my cable crashed and I lost all my programming.  This time I DVRed Spiderman: Homecoming, among others. From Epix, I snagged Rosemary’s Baby.

I was recovering from a massive asthma attack which landed me in Stanford ER for 30 hours for treatment and observation. I decided to go ahead and watch a couple of movies, and since it had been one of the “1001 movies to see before you die,” I chose Rosemary’s Baby.

Oh, my God. That has to be the scariest movie I have ever seen. I don’t believe in the Devil – or not the type of Devil that the movie portrays, anyway – or witchcraft, let alone that the Devil could have a half-human child (although, looking at the Jesus paradigm, wouldn’t the baby be all Devil? The movie raises interesting theological issues), but the rest of it…

What makes the movie so horrifyingly frightful is, demons and witches aside, how possible it all seems. I have seen The Exorcist, and no matter how many times little Regan hurls pea soup across the room, it will never seem like reality. Likewise the other movies that get my pulse racing – Cloverfield or the Blair Witch Project. But Rosemary’s Baby…

Let’s leave aside the devil and looks what happens to Rosemary, shall we?

She has to deal with neighbors that increasingly take over her life.

Her husband gets demanding and controlling, to the point of siding with aforementioned neighbors about what she would do.

A close friend tries to warn her about her neighbors and dies.

Her husband starts to restrict her access to reading materials.

Her doctor insists on her drinking weird concoctions.

Her husband refuses to allow her to change doctors.

When she tries to go to another doctor, that doctor dismisses her as crazy, and calls her husband and doctor, who literally drag her away, kidnapping her.

She is held down and gagged while she gives birth at home and not in a hospital, against her wishes.

She is told that her child died.

She is told that everything that happened before was the result of her having the “prepartum crazies,” and that her fears are a result of psychosis.

She lies in bed listening as the child cries – the child she was told had died. Others state they can’t hear anything.

Worst of all, a third of the way through the movie, she was drugged and raped, and her husband claimed he was the rapist. (Having sex with an unconscious woman, even if she is your wife, is rape.)

All of this seems tragically possible. Or, if not possible as depicted in the movie, then it’s only a reasonable exaggeration of things that could actually happen.

Long before Rosemary actually found out about baby Adrian, my skin was crawling and my pulse was racing. I have never had to deal with a husband like Rosemary’s, but I know that there are husbands like that out there.

And through all of the weird but not impossible happenings, until the end of the movie, it’s not quite clear what is reality and what is her imagination. Was she possessed? Was she psychotic?

I found myself shivering at the end. The very end, however, with the coven and the baby, lessened my sense of horror. Actuality trumps mythology. I think as good as the movie is, it would have been even better had they ended when she was walking down the corridor at the end, when she still doesn’t know she had Satan’s child, so you can’t tell if all of it is real.

Unlike other movies which I view as masterpieces (and I do view Rosemary’s Baby as such), which I usually hold onto for at least a week while I decide whether to keep them permanently, I could not erase this film fast enough. Even so, it’s going to stay with me for a while.




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